Race Records

By Hua Hsu Mar 21, 2004

David Banner
Mississippi (SRC/Universal)
The allure in David Banner’s brash, mouth-of-the-South shtick is that he’s not sure he’s got all the answers himself. For every hedonistic “Like a Pimp” there’s a thoughtful, God-fearing-but-loving “Cadillac on 22’s,” and the balance makes this one of the most touching, complex rap records of the year.

Mutamassik and Morgan Craft
Rough Americana (RA)
DJ Mutamassik and guitarist Craft collaborate on this intense, freethinking improvised set that veers from noise to wrenched-apart anthems to soft ambient tones. Not for the faint of heart but a spirited and occasionally rewarding deconstruction of music as we know it.

Fuel for the Fire (Uncle Trouble)
We’re suckers for righteous, topical, Bush-is-a-demon raps. We’re also suckers for solid, hard-hitting, no-frills beats. Cambridge, MA’s Kabir, perhaps the only son of a Nobel laureate to share a stage with KRS-One, has got both. (For the record: pops Amartya Sen won the Econ award in 1998.)

Various Artists
Bay Area Funk (Ubiquity)
There’s been a renewed interested in the raw, independent funk of the late-1960s and 1970s and this is one of the first widely-distributed comps to look at the trickle-down effect folks like Sly Stone, James Brown, and Tower of Power had on the sadly forgotten Bay Area garage bands of times past. As mean and hard as the times they were recorded in.

Various Artists
Dis-Jointed (Dis-Joint)
San Francisco’s Groove Merchant, one of the U.S.’ premier specialty record shops, delivers this fantastic volume of historical obscurities and the new compositions they’ve inspired. There’s early-1980s reggae and rap from Brooklyn’s celebrated Wackies label, rare bits of funk and fusion and some great present-day cut-and-paste grooves befitting San Fran ’s lovable eclecticism.

Bubba Sparxxx
Deliverance (Interscope)
Bubba, the humble pig-wrestling white-boy prodigy of star-maker Timbaland, drops a touching, countrified album of hip-hop confessional. Great production, surprisingly introspective and highly recommended.

Hua Hsu is working on a doctorate in American civilizations at Harvard University. He has written for The Wire, URB, The Boston Phoenix, and The Village Voice.